Cultivate - the Horticultural Therapy Society of NSW


Horticultural Therapy is a very broad field: it includes elements from many different professions and disciplines. This section is intended to provide therapists and professionals, with an interest in Horticultural Therapy, with a few examples of past and current studies which may act as a starting point for further research. Many of the articles are only available as abstracts, or summaries, and are drawn from research published within the past 20 years.

*(Special thanks to John Mitchell for his assistance in compiling the information for the website as a student project!)*


  • A Prospective Study of Existential Issues in Therapeutic Horticulture for Clinical Depression / Marianne Thorsen Gonzalez, Terry Hartig, Grete Grindal Patil, Egil Wilhelm Martinsen & Marit Kirkevold, 2011, Journal of Issues in Mental Health Nursing, volume 32 no. 1, pages 73-81 (Abstract only)

An analysis of an original and a replicated study into the effects of horticultural therapy on clinically depressed individuals. Some of the existential issues surrounding depressed patients are explored. It was found that while the programmes had positive and sustained effects on both groups, existential issues remained. 


  • Therapeutic Horticulture in Clinical Depression: A Prospective Study of active components / Marianne Thorsen Gonzalez, Terry Hartig, Grete Grindal Patil, Egil W. Martinsen & Marit Kirkevold 2010, Journal of Advanced Nursing, volume 66 no. 9 (Abstract only)

The factors present in the previous study of clinically depressed adults in a horticultural therapy programme are more closely examined. The results are consistent with previous research, indicating that engagement and immersion in an activity correlated strongly with positive patient outcomes.

  • An evaluation of the gardening leave project for ex-military personnel with PTSD and other combat related mental health problems / Jacqueline Atkinson, 2009

A number of activities are conducted, however the majority are either outdoor or garden based. Patients and staff were interviewed for their views on the programme. Some of the advantages such as the security and routine, as well as the presence of other veterans are discussed. Participants expressed high levels of satisfaction with the programme.


  • Therapeutic Horticulture in Clinical Depression: A Prospective Study / Marianne Thorsen Gonzalez, Terry Hartig, Grete Grindal Patil, Egil W. Martinsen & Marit Kirkevold 2009, Journal of Research and Theory for Nursing Practice, volume 23, no. 4, pages 312-328 (Abstract only)

The effectiveness of a twelve week horticultural therapy programme for clinically depressed adults is assessed. The majority of participants showed improvement; which correlated with their level of immersion in the programme. The improvement was found to have been maintained during the three months following the programme.

  • Accessible Gardening for Therapeutic Horticulture / Jean Larson, Anne Hancheck, Paula Vollmar, 2008

Horticultural Therapy in accessible gardens is explained briefly. Practical information about issues such as planting containers and issues surrounding mobility, plant selection, and watering is provided.


  • Influence of Limitedly Visible Leafy Indoor Plants on the Psychology, Behaviour, and Health of Students at a Junior High School in Taiwan / Ke-Tsung Han, 2008, Journal of Environment and Behavior, volume 41 no. 5, pages 658-692 (Abstract only) 

Using a quasi-experimental methodology, the effects of green vegetation in classrooms is evaluated. Two high school classes in Taiwan were selected; plants were added to the classroom used by the first class, while the second class was used as a control. Some of the empirical evidence to support the positive effects of nature on humans is reviewed. The class with the added plants did show positive outcomes, however the author stresses that there are several possible causes, and outlines some opportunities for further research.


  • Effects of Horticultural Therapy on Mood and Heart Rate in Patients Participating in an Inpatient Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program / Matthew Wichrowski, Jonathan Whiteson, François Haas, Ana Mola & Mariano J. Rey, 2005, Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, volume 25, pages 270-274

The study examines the effects of HT on mood and heart rate in patients. The outcomes were positive, however, the results were only measured in the short term, so it is unclear how long positive effects remained. It is recommended that HT may be used as a component in future rehabilitation of similar patients.


  • ‘Cultivating health’: therapeutic landscapes and older people in northern England / Christine Milligan, Antony Gatrell, Amanda Bingley, 2004, Journal of Social Science and Medicine volume 58, no. 9, pages 1781-1793 (Abstract only)

Different facets of allotment gardening are explored, with the intention of identifying the benefits of such an activity. Issues surrounding the physical limitations of older gardeners are examined, overall, however, the study finds that communal gardening has overwhelming positive outcomes for participants.


  • Horticultural therapy: the ‘healing garden’ and gardening in rehabilitation measures at Danderyd Hospital Rehabilitation Clinic, Sweden / Ingrid Soderback, Marianne Soderstrom, and Elisabeth Schalander, 2004, Journal of Paediatric Rehabilitation, volume 7, no. 4, pages 245-260 (Abstract only)

An overview of the operation of the Swedish Horticulture Therapeutic Garden at Danderyd Hospital in Sweden. The garden was designed to serve patients recovering from injury, as well as acting as a space in which staff could be taught about Horticultural therapy. The design features of the garden are examined. Characteristics of the garden are explained in relation to desired outcomes of different types of patients.


  • Health benefits of gardens in hospitals / Roger S. Ulrich, 2002, Plants for People International Exhibition Floriade, pages 1-10

The construction of hospitals is identified as an area which attracts considerable funding. The author sees this as an opportunity to include therapeutic gardens in the construction. The importance of providing hospital administrators with evidence for the positive impacts of gardens on patients is highlighted.

Stress relief is identified as the primary benefit of these gardens, and numerous studies are presented to reinforce this. Benefits for patients’ overall satisfaction with their care are also noted. Some of the characteristics of therapeutic gardens are also examined.


  • What makes a garden a healing garden? / Ulrika A. Stigsdotter and Patrick Grahn 2002, Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, volume 13, pages 60-69 

Several different views of the garden are expressed, and the theory relevant to each of these viewpoints is briefly explored. A distinction between the passive experience of the ‘healing garden’ and the active cultivation advocated by Horticultural Therapy is noted, however, the authors explain the two modes of experience as either ends of a scale, rather than mutually exclusive concepts. 

Different garden ‘rooms’ are briefly touched upon, each has its own characteristics, which work together to form a whole. The many different disciplines from which research has been drawn are placed within the views of the garden space, and the importance of the balance between active and passive garden use is emphasised.


  • Evaluating a children’s hospital garden environment: utilization and consumer satisfaction / Sandra Whitehouse, James W. Varni, Michael Seid, Clare Cooper-Marcus, Mary Jane Ensberg, Jenifer R. Jacobs, & Robyn S. Mehlenbeck, 2001,  Journal of Environmental Psychology, volume 21, no. 3, pages 301–331 (Abstract only)

An evaluation of a therapeutic garden in San Diego Children’s hospital and health center. The garden received positive feedback, and some proposals for improvements. Overall the study found that the garden was underutilised, with many family members of patients unaware of its existence. 


  • Gardens and Health / Clare Cooper-Marcus, 2000, Journal of the International Academy for Design and Health, pages 61-71

There is an acknowledgement that environmental factors are now recognised by medical science. The wide variety of relevant research from other fields is mentioned, as is the research using varying methods within the field is considered. Drawing on Ulrich (1999 ABOVE) some of the benefits of gardens are analysed.

A garden space has certain requirements if it is to be useful in therapeutic terms, and some of these are noted, such as accessibility, security, quiet and familiarity. Some existing gardens are considered as models of therapeutic gardens, and it is recognised that gardens may make use of different features for different purposes. The gap in knowledge between medical personnel and garden designers is highlighted, and the author expresses the opinion that more research would be of great benefit to the field.


  • Perspectives on Horticultural Therapy in Australia / David E. Aldous, 2000, HortTechnology, volume 10 no. 1, pages 18-23

The history of horticulture in Australia is briefly reviewed, and the emergence and growth of Horticultural Therapy is examined. Many of the different populations involved in HT are noted, as are Victorian hospitals using HT to treat some of these populations. 

The field of HT in Australia is explained, including participants and peak bodies. The current state of research is examined, and it is predicted that the sector will grow in the coming years, although issues such as a shortage of qualified personnel are noted.


  • Effects of gardens on health outcomes: theory and research / Roger S Ulrich, 1999, in Healing gardens: therapeutic designs and recommendations, pages 27-86,

This extensive chapter considers the scientific evidence for what are termed ‘healing gardens’. It is noted that compared to other healthcare fields, the research conducted into the benefits of gardens is quite small. The large amount of information available in other, relevant fields is seen to compensate for this. Some of the features which appear to give gardens therapeutic value are examined: vegetation, flowers, water, while these features appear to be effective in gardens of very different sizes.

There is a discussion about some of the problems which gardens may be used to address, and some of the ways in which their solutions may be further encouraged. The theory behind why gardens have such positive effects is investigated, and aspects such as the sense of control, privacy, social support, exercise and positive distractions are identified. Finally, possible characteristics which may impede positive outcomes are considered.


  • Horticultural Therapy: the garden benefits everyone / D J Smith, 1998, Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, volume 36 no. 10, pages 19-21 (Abstract only)

The use of gardens as a means of aiding recovery from mental illness is explored. An outline is provided of a horticultural therapy programme run in a New York State hospital by nursing students. The outcomes for both students and patients are examined, and are positive, although predominantly anecdotal.


  • Impact of Horticultural Therapy on Psychosocial Functioning Among Urban Jail Inmates / Jay Stone Rice & Linda L. Remy, 1998, Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, volume 26, no. 3-4, pages 169-191 (Abstract only) 

Related studies are drawn upon, including research on the effects of trauma on self-development. A number of influencing factors in participants’ backgrounds are explored, including family relationships, victimisation experiences and substance abuse. Participants were classified by race. Outcomes from the programme were generally positive, but were not always sustained. A number of factors are noted as potential factors, especially post release.


  • The psychological value of open space / Nora J. Rubinstein, 1997 Benefits of open space

An examination of the academic theory relating to the benefits of open space. The benefits of open spaces for individuals are explored, largely in an academic, rather than scientific manner. 



  • Horticultural therapy: horticulture’s contribution to the quality of life of disabled people / J.A. Stoneham, A.D. Kendle, & P.R. Thoday, 1995, Horticulture in Human life, Culture and Environment (Abstract only) 

Landscape design, as well as gardening methods are considered in relation to the elderly, disabled, and those with learning disabilities. The aim of the programme was to increase the patients’ quality of life, and provide a suitable model for therapists to facilitate such improvements. Related horticultural therapy studies at various universities in the UK are also examined.



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